Photo by George Le Masurier : Janet Gemmell, president of the Morrison Creek Stream Keepers, along the creek near Puntledge Park. 

 

Not all of the water from glacier-fed Comox Lake drains out through the Puntledge River. Huge volumes of cold clear water from the bottom of the lake infiltrate deep into the ground and begin seeping downhill on a multi-year journey toward the ocean.

But just east of Bevan Road, at the foot of a steep slope dropping about 100 feet, some of this water resurfaces in the form of dozens of tiny springs wiggling themselves free of their underground routes. These waters pool up into wetlands and ponds and grow into little tributaries that eventually all come together in one main channel.

We call that channel, Morrison Creek.

Morrison Creek flows from these headwaters at the outer edge of Cumberland, down through rural Area C of the Comox Valley Regional District, running somewhat parallel to Lake Trail Road. Then it travels through the City of Courtenay and joins the Puntledge River at Puntledge Park.

Like Brooklyn Creek, the Morrison travels through three separate municipal jurisdictions. But unlike Brooklyn — and most certainly unlike the polluted and channelized Golf Creek — the Morrison is alive with aquatic life in its cool, clean water.

The creek supports four of the five species of salmon all the way up to its headwaters. There are ample trout throughout the system, and large freshwater mussels flourish here. It is also home to a strange creature called the Morrison Creek lamprey, a unique variation of the common Western Brook Lamprey found on the coast.

And the Morrison’s waters run plentiful and steady all year around.

So why is Morrison Creek so much healthier than Brooklyn or Golf creeks?

The simple answer is that the Morrison’s headwaters are pristine and intact, and where it travels through developed areas, the creek remains mostly natural with adequate riparian cover.

But there’s also another reason.

More than 48 stormwater outlets empty into Brooklyn and Golf creeks — about two dozen each. And from those outlets flow oils, pesticides, animal and human feces and a variety of heavy metals and chemicals, many of which are toxic to wildlife. Golf creek gets an excessive amount of contaminants after a heavy rain because it drains the downtown commercial area of Comox.

By contrast, there are only two stormwater outlets into Morrison Creek, both near its termination in Puntledge Park and none come from a commercial area.

Saving the headwaters

The key to Morrison Creek’s success as a healthy waterway is the natural state of its vast headwaters. But that’s also the greatest threat to its long-term survival.

The headwaters area was originally logged in the 1920s and again in the 1960s. If the new growth was logged again, it would inflict cumulative negative impacts on the creek and wildlife habitat.

When the Comox Valley Lands Trust (CVLT) completed a science-based conservation plan several years ago, the Morrison headwaters emerged as a top priority to acquire and conserve. Not only does the nearly 600-acre area support significant biodiversity, it also plays a critical role in sustaining water quality in the rest of the Morrison watershed.

The headwaters are bordered by the Inland Highway to its west, north by Lake Trail Road and west by Bevan Road. The land is mostly owned by Hancock Timber Resource Group, a logging company known as Comox Timber, with few exceptions:

There are homes on two small rural lots and two undeveloped properties, and a small piece of wetland purchased by the province during construction of the Inland Highway that was later protected at the Linton Conservation Area.

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George Le Masurier

DecafNation